Over the weekend, the Puck Daddy afternoon headlines included a video interview with Alexander Radulov, conducted on the streets of some Italian city. While some of the discussion was hard to understand, there was some conversation about a possible return to the NHL after Radulov's contract with Salavat Yulaev expires in the spring of 2011.
So how did a onetime Russian Nashville Predator end up talking hockey on the banks of the Adriatic with an Italian hockey fan?
The interviewer, Antonio Vestrucci, was good enough to write me and let me know how this all came about...
First of all, it turns out that Antonio is indeed a die-hard NHL fan in the land where soccer reigns supreme:
In Italy ice hockey isn't a main sport, above all it is played in the northern area of the country and the only way people can read news about NHL is on the web. But a lot of people don't speak/read english, so about 4 years ago I opened a forum where I translate news into italian. With a lot of imagination, the forum is:
I can vouch for Antonio's dedication, as I've linked to his site in the past for its extensive gallery of goaltending masks.
Luckily if ice hockey is not a common sport, inline hockey is played all over the country, and I play inline too. My team is Libertas Hockey Forlì (http://www.hockeyforli.it/). A friend of mine plays in the team located in San Benedetto del Tronto, a town on the Adriatic sea. Here lives the mother of Gennady Stolyarov, who was drafted by Detroit Red Wings in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft and now plays in the Kontinental Hockey League.
Every year Gennady spends about a month of his off season with the mother and his little brother. This summer when he was in Italy for the first time, he came along with the Anaheim Ducks/Atlanta Trashers Evgeni Artyukhin. My friend called me and I went to San Benedetto del Tronto to meet Artyukhin:
That's not a bad deal, I know if I had a place in Italy I could spend some off-season time there, and it's no wonder that other players want to join him...
Ten days later my friend called me another time, becouse Gennady was in Italy along Alex Radulov. So I returned to San Benedetto del Tronto (about 230km from where I live) to meet Radulov. We had dinner togher (pizza of course) and after that I made the interview. Here are some pics:
You really should head over and check out the photo gallery, there's even a guy named Fabio rocking a Predators t-shirt.
Radulov is a really good guy: he chatted all the night, he signed pictures and he payed the dinner to all of us. I hope he will return to play in NHL when his KHL contract will expire. Obviously, as he said during the interview, "If they still want me!".
The neat part is that when Antonio asked Radulov about a return to Nashville, he cited the reader poll that was posted here a few months ago, in which 62% of respondents would take him back on the Predators.
Thanks to Antonio for the background information, and if you have any friends or relatives over in Italy, be sure to send them over to Hockey Night In Italy.
Just in case you missed it previously, here's the video in question. The Nashville bit starts around the 6:19 mark:
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